Traditional open-air (location-based) games like Hide-and-seek or Capture the flag brought hours of fun to many of us when we were kids. Then consoles and computer games came along and suddenly the only location you played in was the living room. Today integration of smartphones and geo-location is about to change it and combine the real and virtual worlds. Although Mobile Location-Based Gaming is an area where developers have just begun to scratch the surface in terms of what’s possible, it is one of the fastest growing and interesting trends among LBS.
What is there on the market?
- Treasure hunts (e.g. Geocaching)
- Territory defense and claiming (e.g. Please Stay Calm, Shadow Cities, Fleck, MyTown, GeoWars, Life is Crime)
- Scavenger hunts (e.g. City Secrets, SCVNGR, Bounty Island, iSpy)
- Role playing game (e.g. GeoHunters)
- Mixed themes (e.g. Parallel Kingdom)
The other popular type of Location-Based Gaming are scavenger hunts. It is the best way of tying a game in with a real-world experience is what location-based games are all about for Greg Gerber, founder of iSpy. His iPhone game is based on the children’s game of “I spy”. A player takes a picture of a real world object, say, a statue in a city and uploads it to the game. Then, other players take on the task of finding that statue (they get an approximate location of the geotagged photo—a circle is projected onto a map, and it contains the object within a radius of a few city blocks). When they do find it, they take a picture of it with the cell phone’s camera and upload it, thus “solving” the game.
Where is it all going?
It is surely interesting field with a huge potential but all depends on profitable business models. Foursquare for example although rapidly growing is struggling to monetize the user database. Justin Beck – one of the founders of Parallel Kingdom says that in-app purchases and the fact that user spend on average fairly long time playing everyday creates profitable revenue source. We’ll see soon where it is all going.
Location-Based Services – Industry Standards
This is one those boring however necessary posts. Location-Based Services are a convergence of heterogeneous technologies, built from several separate components. In order to sustain operability, interoperability and reliability of all those systems, which highly important from user point of view the industry introduced several standards.The organizations that play significant roles in the development of LBS standards are the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). In addition to these, there are several other organizations that provide important components of the LBS standards infrastructure.
The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is an international standards organization responsible for the development of standards for geospatial- and location-based services. To complement Location Interoperability Forum’s (LIF) advanced MLP services, OGC has come up with OpenLS Services that addresses the geospatial interoperability issues. Key services handled by OpenLS specification are:
- coordinate transformation,
- Web Mapping,
- Geography Markup Language (GML),
- geoprocessing and
- Web integration.
In order to make spatial standards interoperable with communication standards, such as, to integrate LBS into Internet, Web and wireless, OGC coordinates its activities with several organizations including OMA, IETF, W3C, OASIS, ISO, Parlay. Parlay is a consortium that develops open APIs based on their Open Systems Architecture (OSA) for mobile networks that provides functionality for authentication, authorization, and access to network services. APIs for OSA/Parlay enable service implementations within existing fixed and mobile telecommunications networks. This architecture/framework complements the GeoMobility Server, described here.
The GeoMobility server provides the basic functionalities on which location-based applications are built (the OpenLS Core Services). It provides subscribers with various location-based application services and content. By using open interfaces to access network location information, this server allows applications to access a set of core services known as the OpenLS Core Services. To summarize, the GeoMobility server provides:
- The Core Services and their OpenLS interfaces along with the OpenLS Information Model, consisting of Abstract Data Types (ADTs).
- A set of applications build upon the Core Services and accessing them through OpenLS interfaces.
- Content such as map data, points of interest, routes, and so on used by the Core Services; this content can also be hosted on other servers and accessed through the Internet.
- Various supporting functions for personalization, context management, billing, and logging.